Texas Court of Appeals Agrees with School District That Former Employee’s Termination Was Not Based Upon Unlawful Discrimination

There is no such thing as a perfect employee or a perfect employer. Tension and stress in the workplace often lead to conflict. Sometimes, this type of situation can, in turn, lead to formal complaints and even employment litigation.

However, when a business is named as a defendant in a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit, this does not automatically mean that any unlawful conduct occurred. Very often, the employer is able to prove that there was a legitimate, perfectly legal reason for the adverse employment action about which the plaintiff complains.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided on appeal, the plaintiff was an African American male who worked for the defendant school district as a director of risk management. After he was terminated for his alleged failure to follow district policy and procedures, he filed a discrimination charge with the Texas Workforce Commission. In his charge, he claimed that he had been the victim of a hostile work environment and that he had been discriminated against because of his race and gender.

After receiving a “right to sue” letter from the Commission, the plaintiff filed suit against the school district. The defendant filed a combined plea to the jurisdiction of the court and a motion for summary judgment (both traditional and no-evidence). The trial court granted relief to the defendant as to the plaintiff’s constitutional claims but denied relief as to the plaintiff’s claims under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The school district appealed.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth District reversed the trial court’s decision and rendered judgment to the effect that the plaintiff take nothing by way of his claims under the Act. According to the appellate court, the school district was entitled to governmental immunity because the plaintiff had not established a prima facie case of a hostile work environment claim and because the school district had established a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the plaintiff’s termination (which the plaintiff did not refute).

In so holding, the court noted that the there had been several previous issues concerning the plaintiff’s conduct in the workplace. About three years after he was hired, there had been a memorandum issued addressing concerns about his conduct, and two years later there had been another memorandum directing the plaintiff to keep his interactions calm and professional in the future. In the second memorandum, the plaintiff had been warned that “the type of verbal outburst [that he exhibited to a supervisor over the telephone]” would not be tolerated in the future. It was only after the second memorandum that the plaintiff’s employment contract was not renewed.

Seek Counsel Concerning an Employment Discrimination Allegation

Not every allegation of unfair treatment in the workplace is well-founded. If your business has been accused of wrongdoing by a current or former employee, you have every right to defend yourself to the fullest extent of the law. At Key Harrington Barnes, we help Dallas area businesses fight unfair charges of employment discrimination and other accusations of inappropriate or illegal activity in the workplace. Call us at 214-615-7925 to schedule an appointment with a member of our experienced defense team.

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